Lowell Liebermann - 88 Squared album cover

88 Squared Piano Duo

Albany Records: 2015

WSU piano faculty members Jeffrey and Karen Savage are the formidable pianists of 88 Squared, a critically acclaimed piano duo. This remarkable recording of Liebermann’s music for two pianos will only add to their international reputation. Liebermann’s piano music requires keen attention to color, texture, balance, and lyricism. His ample use of counterpoint requires absolute precision between the four hands.

88 Squared seems entirely comfortable with the often virtuosic writing. It is impressive to hear such refined playing that also contains plenty of drama and drive. This is especially true in “Daydream and Nightmare for Two Pianos, Eight Hands, Op. 94” in which the Savages are joined by the pianist William Hobbs and the composer. The five-minute piece begins with a short lyrical section, but quickly moves to a near ecstatic, 40-fingered Bacchanalian celebration.

Liebermann acknowledges that “as a pianist composer, one can’t escape being influenced by the tremendous legacy of the great pianist-composers.” Listeners will hear echoes of Bartók, Barber, Ravel, Bach, jazz, and ragtime as well as a few nods to other composers. The playful side of Liebermann can be found in the quotations he incorporates into his music. Play an audio version of “Where’s Waldo?” by finding quotes from such well-known melodies as “Tea for Two,” “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” “My Hat it has Three Corners,” and other tunes.

The “Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 117,” written for the duo in 2012, features chorales, frenzied fugues requiring lightning speed and super-human coordination between the pianists, and Bartókian primitivism. In addition to the “Sonata” and the “Daydream and Nightmare,” the recording features “Three Lullabies for Two Pianos” and “Variations on a theme by Mozart.”

The recording is available at Albany Records, iTunes, and Amazon.